A most critical appeal for stem cell donors for our sister Meriem took place at the Lewisham Islamic Centre on 6th January 2023 on that most blessed days that is Jummu’ah. Two years ago, sister Meriem received the dreadful diagnosis of a highly aggressive form of cancer called Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. Following months of intense chemotherapy and an initial successful stem-cell transplant from her beloved sister Hana, in November 2022 she relapsed as the cancer returned. A new stem cell transplant is now desperately needed but this time it must come from a non-relative, i.e. a non-family member if there is to be a good chance of fighting the cancer and allowing sister Meriem to reman in remission.
Stem cells are special cells produced inside the marrow of bones and these cells are capable of turning into different types of blood cells that carry oxygen around the body, or stop bleeding, or fight infection in the body. In cases where the bone marrow becomes damaged and can no longer produce healthy blood cells or where these blood cells and damaged or destroyed by cancer and cancer treatment, then life-saving stem cell transplantation from a suitable and matching human donor can be used to treat such illness.
Abd Allah b. Umar reported the prophet (May peace be upon him) as saying : A Muslim is a Muslim’s brother: he does not wrong him or abandon him. If anyone cares for his brother’s need, Allah will care for his need ; if anyone removes a Muslim’s anxiety, Allah will remove from him, on account of it, one of the anxieties of the Day of resurrection; and if anyone conceals a Muslim’s fault, Allah will conceal his fault on the Day of resurrection.(Sunan Abi Dawud)
After Jummu’ah prayers, DKMS stem cell bone marrow charity held a clinic to register as many potential bone marrow donors in an effort to find a match for sister Meriem. Several clinics had already been held around the country from Manchester to Leeds and London, with a sustained social media drive prior to each clinic to raise awareness and publicise the appeal. Moreover, LIC disseminated flyers and put up posters in local shops. Being of North African origin, it turned out that a lack of registered donors of this ethnicity gave Meriem only a 37% chance of a match. In contrast, the chances doubled to 72% for white Caucasian patients successfully matching stem-cell donors. This disparity of numbers only underscored the glaring paucity of numbers and lack of awareness within ethnic minority communities to the crucial life-saving capabilities of stem cell transplantation and treatment.
In all, more than 100 people of various ethnicities attended the registration clinic at LIC, and it was heartening to see a North African majority turn out for sister Meriem. It’s also hoped that each person now on the register will encourage others to register likewise and become a match for other desperate donor-seeking families across the country.
There is no illness for which Allah has not made a cure. We hope and pray to Allah Almighty that a suitable match is found in good time for sister Meriem, that He restores her to good health and the priceless loving embrace of her family.
… And whoever saves a life, it will be as if they saved all of humanity…(Qur’an 5 v 32)